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jerryking : surprises   27

Hostage negotiation skills provide lessons for the boardroom
JANUARY 6, 2019 | Financial Times | Helen Warrell

A former police officer suggests using surprise to gain an advantage......she is instructing a class of young professional women on how to argue, persuade and arbitrate

She reels off the similarities. “We’re both in the situation where there’s a possibility of crisis,” Ms Williams tells us. “You need to be well-prepared, whether you’re talking to some terrorists on Iraq or going into a big meeting.” 

She adds that managing the stakeholders — such as the parents of abducted children — is sometimes harder than managing the kidnappers. “You’ve all got anxious bosses and CEOs to keep on side, which is difficult too.”...She advises preparing for salary negotiations by researching statistics, calculating averages, and making sure your pitch is evidence-based rather than impassioned......make clear this is a serious discussion, not a water-cooler conversation,”..... She advises using surprise to your advantage, effectively by springing meetings on bosses at a moment when they seem unoccupied and then asking “have I caught you in the middle of something?”. “It’s obvious when they’re not so it’s hard [for them] to pretend otherwise,” response to someone deploying “hostile silence” in the face of requests for pay rises. “Don’t fill silence with nonsense, there’s a British trait of thinking every silence has to be filled,” instead, ask a direct question to force a response. “You could try, ‘what are you thinking about?’ or, ‘have I stunned you?’”.....Something that works well with alpha men is planting the seed that something you want is actually their idea: you can try saying, ‘did I hear you mention X’ or ‘have you thought about Y?’” for any important negotiation are first, identifying the people who are the “real decision makers”, then knowing what is negotiable, and preparing a second-best scenario to fall back on.
hostages  negotiations  salaries  Scotland_Yard  United_Kingdom  women  kidnappings  surprises 
january 2019 by jerryking
Dump the PowerPoints and do data properly — or lose money
APRIL 15, 2018 | FT| Alan Smith.

So what can data analysts in organisations do to get their messages heard?

Board members and senior managers certainly need to consider new ways of thinking that give primacy to data. But reasoning with data requires what psychologist Daniel Kahneman describes as “System 2 thinking” — the rational, reasoning self — and a move away from the “gut intuition” of System 1. That’s not an easy culture change to achieve overnight.

Freelance consultant, author and data visualisation expert Andy Kirk believes there is a duty of care on both analysts and their audiences to develop skills, particularly in relation to how data is communicated through an organisation.......many senior managers “neither have the visual literacy nor the confidence to be exposed to [data presentations] they don't understand — and they just don't like change”. Mr Kirk describes it as a kind of “Stockholm syndrome” in data form — “I’ve always had my report designed like this, I don't want anything different” analysts need to nurture their communication skills, taking a responsibility for encouraging change and critical thinking, not just being “the data people”. Acting as agents of change, they need to be effective marketers of their skills and sensitive educators that show a nuanced appreciation of the needs of the business. Organisations that bind data to the business model — and data literacy to the board — will inevitably stand a better chance of achieving long-term change.....The truth is that data in the boardroom enjoys a patchy reputation, typified by dull, overlong PowerPoint presentations. A cynic might suggest that even the most recent addition to boardroom structures — the chief data officer — is used by many boards simply as a device to prevent other members needing to worry about the numbers.

Here are 3 techniques that can be used to encourage progressive change in the boardroom.
(1) Use KPIs that are meaningful and appropriate for answering the central questions about the business and the market it operates in. Try to eliminate “inertia metrics” — i.e. “we report this because we always do”.

(2) Rework boardroom materials so that they encourage board members to read data, preferably in advance of meetings, rather than glance at it during one. This might mean transforming the dreaded PowerPoint deck into something a little more journalistic, a move that will help engage “System 2” thinking.

(3) Above all, be aware of unconscious bias in the boardroom and focus on debunking it. Most of us are poor intuitive statisticians with biases that lurk deep in our “System 1” view of the world. There is insight, value and memorability in the surprise that comes with highlighting our own ignorance — so use data to shine a light on surprising trends, not to simply reinforce that which is already known.
absenteeism  boards_&_directors_&_governance  change  change_agents  Communicating_&_Connecting  Daniel_Kahneman  data  data_driven  gut_feelings  infographics  insights  KPIs  PowerPoint  psychologists  storytelling  surprises  visualization 
april 2018 by jerryking
Get Ready for Technological Upheaval by Expecting the Unimagined
SEPT. 2, 2017 | The New York Times | By SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN.

New technologies are rattling the economy on all fronts. While the predictions are specific and dire, bigger changes are surely coming. Clearly, we need to adjust for the turbulence ahead.

But we may be preparing in the wrong way.

Rather than planning for the specific changes we imagine, it is better to prepare for the unimagined — for change itself.

Preparing for the unknown is not as hard as it may seem, though it implies fundamental shifts in our policies on education, employment and social insurance.

* Education. Were we to plan for specific changes, we would start revamping curriculums to include skills we thought would be rewarded in the future. E.g., computer programming might become even more of a staple in high schools than it already is. Maybe that will prove to be wise and we will have a more productive work force. But perhaps technology evolves quickly enough that in a few decades we talk to, rather than program, computers. In that case, millions of people would have invested in a skill as outdated as precise penmanship. Instead, rather than changing what we teach, we could change WHEN we teach...... our current practice of learning early [and hopefully] benefitting for a lifetime — makes sense only in a world where the useful skills stay constant. Human capital, like technology, needs refreshing, we have to restructure our institutions so people acquire education later in life. Not merely need programs for niche populations or circumstances, expensive and short executive-education programs or brief excursions like TED talks. Instead we need the kind of in-depth education and training people receive routinely at age 13.
* Social Insurance. Economic upheaval at the macro level means turmoil and instability at the personal level. A lifetime of work will be a lifetime of change, moving between firms, jobs, careers and cities. Each move has financial and personal costs: It might involve going without a paycheck, looking for new housing, finding a new school district or adjusting to a new vocation. We cannot expect to create a vibrant and flexible overall economy unless we make these shifts as painless as possible. We need a fresh round of policy innovation focused on creating a safety net that gives workers the peace of mind — and the money — to move deftly when circumstances change.....current policies do nothing to protect the most vulnerable from the costs of all this destruction. We resist letting factories close because we worry about what will become of the people who work there. But if we had a social insurance system that allowed workers to move fluidly between jobs, we could comfortably allow firms to follow their natural life and death cycle.

.....other ways of preparing for upheaval? We should broaden the current conversation — centered on drones, the end of work or the prospect of super-intelligent algorithms governing the world — to include innovative proposals for handling the unexpected......One problem is that social policy may seem boring compared with the wonderfully evocative story arcs telling us where current technologies might be heading......The safest prediction is that reality will outstrip our imaginations. So let us craft our policies not just for what we expect but for what will surely surprise us.
tumult  unimaginable  expectations  turbulence  Joseph_Schumpeter  innovation_policies  human_capital  education  safety_nets  job_search  creative_destruction  lifelong  life_long_learning  surprises  economists  improbables  personal_economy  preparation  unexpected  readiness 
september 2017 by jerryking
Why the electoral surprises keep on rolling in
June 16, 2017 | Financial Times | Gillian Tett.

...."I offer up the acronym “FUCU” — not simply because this summarises what many voters think about their leaders (with apologies to anyone who is offended), but because the letters F, U, C and U point to four important trends."

The first letter, “F”, stands for “Fragmentation”. Modern voters are deeply fragmented and polarised in a social, economic and political sense....But what is fascinating about the 21st century is that while our digital technologies create the illusion that humans are hyper-connected, in fact they divide us in subtle ways....Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms enable us to connect — but only with people we actively select.... Furthermore, since these cyber platforms supply news and information, they tend to fuel tunnel vision and polarisation, as extensive research from data scientists shows.

“U”, the acronym’s second letter, stands for “Untrusting”. ...popular trust in mainstream western institutions has crumbled. But what is more interesting is to look at who people do still actively trust.

‘While our digital platforms create the illusion that humans are hyper-connected, in fact they divide us in subtle ways’....A survey conducted by the public relations firm Edelman, for example, shows that public trust in tech companies has stayed sky-high in recent years. And while trust in leaders and “experts” has fallen, it remains high for our peer groups, suggesting that trust is moving from a vertical axis to a horizontal one. So while only 37 per cent of people trust chief executive officers, 53 per cent trust employees; and while only 29 per cent trust government officials, 60 per cent trust “a person like me”.....The third letter in the acronym stands for “Customisation”. This trend is not widely discussed, but it is crucial. As digital technologies have taken hold in recent years, consumers have started to see it as a God-given right that they should be able to organise the world around their personal needs and views, instead of quietly accepting pre-packaged offerings..... these three trends produce an environment that creates an environment that is the last part of the acronym: “Unstable”. A world with a FUCU culture is a place of political cyber flash mobs, in which passion suddenly explodes around a single issue or person, then dies away. It is a place where it is hard to have a sustained conversation about political trade-offs, and where voters and politicians jump across traditional boundaries with dizzying speed, defying labels as they go.
Gillian_Tett  elections  surprises  fragmentation  customization  instability  unpredictability  trustworthiness 
august 2017 by jerryking
How to avert catastrophe
January 21, 2017 | FT | Simon Kuper.

an argument: people make bad judgments and terrible predictions. It’s a timely point. The risk of some kind of catastrophe — armed conflict, natural disaster, and/or democratic collapse — appears to have risen. The incoming US president has talked about first use of nuclear weapons, and seems happy to let Russia invade nearby countries. Most other big states are led by militant nationalists. Meanwhile, the polar ice caps are melting fast. How can we fallible humans avert catastrophe?

• You can’t know which catastrophe will happen, but expect that any day some catastrophe could. In Tversky’s words: “Surprises are expected.” Better to worry than die blasé. Mobilise politically to forestall catastrophe.
• Don’t presume that future catastrophes will repeat the forms of past catastrophes. However, we need to expand our imaginations. The next catastrophe may take an unprecedented form.
• Don’t follow the noise. Some catastrophes unfold silently: climate change, or people dying after they lose their jobs or their health insurance. (The financial crisis was associated with about 260,000 extra deaths from cancer in developed countries alone, estimated a study in The Lancet.)
• Ignore banalities. We now need to stretch and bore ourselves with important stuff.
• Strengthen democratic institutions.
• Strengthen the boring, neglected bits of the state that can either prevent or cause catastrophe. [See Why boring government matters November 1, 2018 | | Financial Times | Brooke Masters.
The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy, by Michael Lewis, Allen Lane, RRP£20, 219 pages. pinboard tag " sovereign-risk" ]
• Listen to older people who have experienced catastrophes. [jk....wisdom]
• Be conservative. [ conservative, be discerning, be picky, be selective, say "no"]
Simon_Kuper  catastrophes  Nassim_Taleb  black_swan  tips  surprises  imagination  noise  silence  conservatism  natural_calamities  threats  unglamorous  democratic_institutions  slowly_moving  elder_wisdom  apocalypses  disasters  disaster_preparedness  emergencies  boring  disaster_myopia  financial_crises  imperceptible_threats 
january 2017 by jerryking
To Be a Great Investor, Worry More About Being Wrong Than Right - MoneyBeat - WSJ
Dec 30, 2016

The stunning surprises of 2016 should have taught all of us that the unexpected will happen. To be a good investor, you have to be right much of the time. To be a great investor, you have to recognize how often you may be wrong. Great investors like Warren Buffett practice trying to disprove their investing assumptions to determine whether they are correct.

Techniques to combat these cognitive biases:

Shun peer pressure from social media or the Internet. If you reveal your opinion to a group that has strong views, the sociologist Robert K. Merton has warned, the ensuing debate becomes more “a battle for status” than “a search for truth.” Instead, get a second opinion from one or two people you know and can trust to tell you if they think you are wrong.

Listen for signals you might be off-base. Use Facebook or Twitter not as an amen corner of people who agree with you, but to find alternative viewpoints that could alert you when your strategies are going astray.

Write down your estimates of where the Dow Jones Industrial Average, oil, gold, inflation, interest rates and other key financial indicators will be at the end of 2017. If you don’t know, admit it. Ask your financial advisers to do the same. Next Dec. 31, none of you will be able to say “I knew that would happen” unless that’s what the record shows.

Book reference: Keith Stanovich, Richard West and Maggie Toplak point out in their new book, “The Rationality Quotient,” rational beliefs “must correspond to the way the world is,” not to the way you think the world ought to be.

What investors need to do is focus on their own investments, their strategies for each particular holding, long-term, income-oriented, speculative, etc. and stick to their plan without being distracted by peers and press looking for big headlines.
Warren_Buffett  biases  confirmation_bias  investors  books  Pablo_Picasso  personal_finance  investing  Jason_Zweig  pretense_of_knowledge  self-awareness  self-analysis  self-reflective  proclivities  warning_signs  signals  second_opinions  peer_pressure  DJIA  assumptions  mistakes  personal_economy  surprises  worrying 
january 2017 by jerryking
The key to winning a dogfight? Focus - The Globe and Mail
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Dec. 14 2014,

Keep your focus: Stay abreast of your field, reading widely and probing for information. His team’s knowledge of how to handle the dire situation they faced, from outwitting the enemy after being hit, to the latest survival training when plunged into the water, kept them alive. “The better informed you are, the better you will be,” he get better you have to debrief after your skirmishes....Do you consistently get the most important things done at work? Your day is jammed with many activities, some important and some minutia. You need to know: If you could only accomplish only one thing, what that would be. Events will arise during the day that require your attention, and you must deal with them. But he notes that we often find ourselves in reactive mode, which can sometimes be misguided. This question addresses the active mode, setting out a plan of what to accomplish for the day...How do you and your teammates prepare for each day’s biggest challenges at work? Top guns have lots of computer displays surrounding them in the cockpit. Because of that complexity, they need a simple plan and to spend time discussing the “what ifs,” so when plans need to be altered, they can manoeuvre effectively. “It’s the same with business people. If you’re surprised, you will have trouble,” he warned.
Vietnam_War  veterans  focus  lessons_learned  U.S._Navy  Harvey_Schachter  feedback  scenario-planning  anticipating  preparation  contingency_planning  debriefs  post-mortems  simplicity  off-plan  priorities  surprises  market_intelligence  beforemath 
december 2014 by jerryking
Red-Hot Skill: Managing in Gray Areas - WSJ - WSJ
Nov. 4, 2014

At a turbulent time in business, more U.S. companies pick and promote executives who thrive amid ambiguity, coaches and recruiters say. These leaders don’t flinch at uncertainty, surprises, conflicting directions, multiple demands—or knotty problems with no clear answers.
Managing_Your_Career  Joann_S._Lublin  uncertainty  red-hot  adversity  surprises  critical_thinking  managing_change  ambiguities  turbulence 
november 2014 by jerryking
Four big surprises that retirees will likely confront - The Globe and Mail
The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Sep. 10 2014,

Four big surprises in retirement:

1. How much you miss working
2. How much of a benefit you get from working in retirement
3. How much money you’re spending
4. How much of a burden it can be to manage your banking and investments
retirement  Second_Acts  surprises  Rob_Carrick 
september 2014 by jerryking
Surprise business result? Explore whether it is a hidden opportunity
June 18, 2007 | G&M pg. B8 | George Stalk Jr.

What does it take to capitalize on anomalies systematically?

For starters, you need to have metrics and information systems that are sufficiently refined to identify anomalies in the first place. Knowing the average margins and market share isn’t enough; look at the entire range of outcomes—across customers, geographies, products, and the like. This allows you to surface out-of-the-ordinary results for closer inspection.

The next step is to separate wheat from chaff: those anomalies that signal a potential business opportunity from those that are merely one-time events. The key is to examine the pattern of unusual performance over time. The customer who consistently buys high volumes or the market that outperforms the average year after year are, by definition, not random. Is there an underlying cause that can be identified and then replicated elsewhere?

Finally, you need to understand the precise mechanisms that animate the anomalies you identify. Why is the unusual pattern of performance happening? What specific features of the product or the local environment or the customer experience are bringing it about? Don’t accept the usual first-order explanations. It’s not enough to know that a particular customer has been loyal for years; find out precisely why.

It’s up to senior management to create the forum for asking why and to persist until the question is answered with genuine insight.
metrics  George_Stalk_Jr.  BCG  anomalies  growth  opportunities  customer_insights  surprises  systematic_approaches  quizzes  ratios  pattern_recognition  insights  questions  first-order  second-order  OPMA  Waudware  curiosity  new_businesses  one-time_events  signals  noise  overlooked_opportunities  latent  hidden  averages  information_systems  assessments_&_evaluations  randomness  5_W’s 
january 2013 by jerryking
When Uncertainty Is A Constant, You Can Still Plan for Surprises
April 7, 1998 | WSJ | By HAL LANCASTER.

one of the few certainties in today's tumultuous business world: About all anyone can expect is the unexpected.

Hal Lancaster answers readers' questions on career issues in Career Corner. Send your questions or comments by e-mail to .

Between mergers and restructurings, new technology and intensified global competition, "change is accelerating," says Dallas management consultant Price Pritchett, who specializes in change management. "The more change and the faster it comes at us, the easier it is for us to get blindsided."

But isn't the ability to cope with the unexpected genetically coded? "Some people have a high need for structure and don't like to wing it." Still, anyone can get better at dealing with surprises.

Here are some other effective strategies:

* Figure out what you can control.

* Plan tight and play loose. "deep planning," or considering all conceivable scenarios and what-ifs. But won't the unexpected foil the best-laid plans? "The better job we do planning, the better we'll do improvising, because we'll understand the situation better,"

* Develop solutions. In a soon-to-be-released booklet on innovation that he is publishing for clients, Dr. Pritchett draws lessons from the 1997 Mars Pathfinder mission. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory talked about "crafting solutions that were tolerant to the uncertainties" of such a project,

* Separate fact from assumptions.

To make good decisions, you need good information. In turbulent times, Mr. Postons observes, "people get suspicious, they get paranoid and that's when they get frozen."

* Do something.In an environment of high-velocity change, Dr. Pritchett says, remember the perils of passivity. "You have to keep moving forward, knowing that in this blurry, fast-moving world, you're going to have to drive on fog lights much of the time."

Concentrating on a plan of action and lining up others to help can turn despair into accomplishment, Dr. Stoltz says. The strategy, he adds, is "whiner-proof and solution-oriented."
Hal_Lancaster  Managing_Your_Career  uncertainty  adversity  surprises  critical_thinking  managing_change  unexpected  cost_of_inaction  assumptions  change  resilience  tumultuous  constant_change  solutions  solution-finders  accelerated_lifecycles  action_plans  span_of_control  momentum  blindsided  blind_spots  beyond_one's_control  JPL  next_play 
december 2012 by jerryking
Whatever the weather
Nov. 24, 2012 | The Financial Times News: p10.|Gillian Tett who interviews Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Until now, Taleb says, modern society has generally assumed that people, systems or institutions fell into two camps: either they were fragile (and likely to break when shocks occur) or robust (and thus able to resist shocks without being impacted at all). Taleb insists there is a third category of people, institutions and systems that are resilient in a way we have been unable to articulate: they survive shocks not because they are immovable but precisely because they do change, bending in the face of stress; adapting and learning. This is the quality that he describes as "antifragile". (In the US the book is being published with the rather more explicit subtitle "Things that Gain from Disorder".)

Taleb goes on to explain how this works: while nation-states tend to be fragile (because they are highly dependent on one vision of the nation), city-states tend to be antifragile (because they can adapt and learn from history). Careers that are based on one large employer can be fragile but careers that are flexible and entrepreneurial are antifragile, because they can move with changing times. Similarly, the banking system is fragile, while Silicon Valley is antifragile; governments that are highly indebted are fragile, while those (such as Sweden) which have learnt from past mistakes and refuse to assume too much debt are antifragile. And Switzerland is presented as one of the most antifragile places of all, partly because its decentralised structure allows for plenty of experimentation...Taleb has plenty of advice to offer us on how to become more antifragile. We should embrace unpredictable change, rather than chase after an illusion of stability; refuse to believe anyone who offers advice without taking personal risk; keep institutions and systems small and self-contained to ensure that they can fail without bringing the entire system down; build slack into our lives and systems to accommodate surprises; and, above all, recognise the impossibility of predicting anything with too much precision. Instead of building systems that are excessively "safe", Taleb argues, we should roll with the punches, learn to love the random chances of life and, above all, embrace small pieces of adversity as opportunities for improvement. "Wind extinguishes a candle and energises a fire," he writes. "Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos, you want to use them, not hide from them."
adaptability  adversity  antifragility  books  chaos  city-states  Gillian_Tett  illusions  Nassim_Taleb  overcompensation  personal_risk  randomness  resilience  scheduling  self-contained  skin_in_the_game  slack_time  surprises  trauma  uncertainty  unpredictability 
november 2012 by jerryking
Business continuity: Making it through the storm
Nov 10th 2012 | The Economist |Anonymous.

Hurricane Sandy was another test of how well businesses can keep going when disaster strikes...GOLDMAN SACHS’S latest shrewd investment was in sandbags and back-up electricity generators. As Hurricane Sandy approached New York, the bags were stacked around its headquarters. It was one of the few offices in downtown Manhattan to remain dry and well-illuminated as “Frankenstorm” battered the city.

Meanwhile, a block farther down West Street, the headquarters of Verizon were awash with salty flood water, soaking cables delivering phone and internet services to millions of customers. The firm was able to reroute much of the traffic through other parts of its network, but local service was disrupted....Sandy is the latest catastrophic event to test the readiness of the world’s leading firms to cope with disaster. Most firms have improved “business continuity” preparations over the years. The Y2K scare at the turn of the century moved IT risk high up the list of worries. The attacks of September 11th 2001 warned firms of the danger of putting all their computers (and staff) in the same place (jk: concentration risk; SPOF)....“Firms are increasingly reliant on networks, but often fail to understand the risks that networks bring,” says Don Tapscott, a management guru. Global supply chains, just-in-time and shifting to the “cloud” tend to bind once unrelated activities ever closer together, making them more prone to failing at the same time. The current fad for moving data to the “cloud” may appear to reduce risk because there is so much spare capacity in the web. Yet some firms offering cloud services have more concentrated operations than (jk: concentration risk).

Firms are starting to recognise their vulnerability to cyber-attack, but few have much idea what they would do if it happened. Mr Tapscott thinks boards should have a committee explicitly focused on understanding IT and network risks and ensuring they are properly managed....Dutch Leonard, a risk expert at Harvard Business School, says that the best-prepared firms use a combination of planning for specific events and planning to cope with specific consequences, such as a loss of a building or supplier, regardless of the cause. He also recommends copying an approach used by the armed forces: using a group of insiders to figure out how the firm could be brought down [ jk: white hats]....Firms should make lobbying government to invest heavily in upgrading that infrastructure a core part of their risk-management strategy, argues Irwin Redlener of the National Centre for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University.

Goldman Sachs has long been a leader in disaster planning because it understands that the situations in which it might not be able to function are exactly the sort of events when very large changes in the value of its investments could occur, says Mr Leonard. Yet too many firms underinvest in planning for disaster because they don’t think it will pay, at least within the short-term timeline by which many now operate, reckons Yossi Sheffi of MIT.
beforemath  boards_&_directors_&_governance  business-continuity  catastrophes  compounded  concentration_risk  crisis  cyberattacks  cyber_security  disasters  disaster_preparedness  Don_Tapscott  Goldman_Sachs  Hurricane_Sandy  isolation  natural_calamities  networks  network_risk  New_York_City  optimism_bias  preparation  readiness  red_teams  resilience  risks  risk-management  short-term  SPOF  step_change  supply_chains  surprises  underinvestments  valuations  vulnerabilities  white_hats 
november 2012 by jerryking
Time bomb lurks in VC term sheets
May 10, 2004 | The Investment Dealers' Digest | Britt Erica Tunick

Venture capital proved the saving grace for many a struggling start-up in the last few years, but as exit opportunities improve in both initial public offerings and mergers and acquisitions, many a start-up is about to come face to face with an unpleasant discovery: Their payouts may well be significantly smaller than they'd expected. instead of sitting down with an investment banker and doing the math to figure out exactly how investment terms will affect them at the time of a liquidity event, the majority of entrepreneurs merely look to their attorneys for assurance that investment terms generally look correct.
start_ups  surprises  vc  venture_capital  exits  ROI  term_sheets  liquidity_events 
august 2012 by jerryking
How to Tell When A CEO Is Toast: The Early Warnings -
April 18, 2000 | WSJ |By CAROL HYMOWITZ

Here's a short list of telltale warning signals indicating trouble at the top.

TURNING A DEAF EAR to directors: When the CEO of a technology company that had grown considerably during his tenure suddenly faced enormous competition from a faster-growing rival and difficulty absorbing two acquisitions, he ignored a number of suggestions from his board. "We told him to try this, do that, consider this -- and he simply wouldn't listen," fumes a director who did not want to be named. The more the CEO insisted on business as usual and refused to listen to his directors' concerns, the more he lost their trust. "His failure to listen became a warning signal to us" and led to his ouster, the director says.
[Illustration of a CEO with a rocket strapped to the back of his chair]

Similarly, former Coca-Cola KO +0.36% CEO Douglas Ivesterdidn't heed his board's urgings to name a No. 2 executive. And when Coke customers in Belgium and France complained of nausea after drinking Coke products, Mr. Ivester ignored at least one director's advice to go quickly to Belgium and address the situation.

Turning a deaf ear to employees: Mr. Ivester also decided, as part of a management reorganization, that the company's highest-ranking African American, Carl Ware, one of his longtime supporters, would no longer report directly to him -- effectively demoting him. The timing couldn't have been worse since Coke is facing an employee lawsuit alleging discrimination. Mr. Ware announced plans for early retirement, and Mr. Ivester lost more credibility as Coke's leader. He stepped down as CEO at the end of last year. Mr. Ivester couldn't be reached for comment.

Former Delta Air Lines DAL -1.69% CEO Ronald Allenalso was a victim of his own insensitive management style three years ago. Mr. Allen had pulled Delta out of a financial tailspin by slashing costs. But a lot of those cuts represented employee layoffs and he did little to smooth over anxieties. Directors ultimately blamed him for a drop in morale throughout the company. With many executives who reported to Mr. Allen leaving and blue-collar workers considering unionization, Mr. Allen was asked to step down. He declined to comment about the ordeal.

PROMISING TOO MUCH: At toymaker Mattel , MAT +0.59% former CEO Jill Barad madeearnings forecasts to her board and shareholders that the company then failed to meet. "Nobody likes surprises," says Thomas Neff, chairman of the executive recruiter Spencer Stuart's U.S. operations. "The best CEOs beat their forecasts, while the worst thing you can do is be overly optimistic," he adds.

Ms. Barad at times dismissed forecasts made by other executives, insisting to directors that Mattel would do better. She resigned in February, after three years as CEO and a stream of disappointing earnings. She was unavailable for comment.

Misreading expectations: A former CEO ousted from his job with a large financial-services company a few years ago recalls how he thought he was in agreement with his board on a succession plan, only to realize they wanted him gone much sooner, mostly out of fear that he was intentionally dragging his feet. The CEO had formed a search committee for a successor, but was taking his time about recommending candidates. Then, at a board meeting, he was asked to leave the room so directors could confer alone. What he thought would be a 15-minute exchange turned into an hour-long discussion. "That's when I knew something was up," he says. "They wanted to move on succession right away."

Underestimating conflict: Bank One 's ONE +2.80% former CEO John McCoyoversaw numerous acquisitions before he merged his Columbus, Ohio, bank with First Chicago to create a $260 billion powerhouse Midwestern bank. Previous smaller mergers, he says, took about 18 mon
aloofness  blue-collar  Carol_Hymowitz  CEOs  expectations  misinterpretations  misjudgement  overoptimism  overpromising  signals  surprises  tailspins  underestimation  unionization  warning_signs 
june 2012 by jerryking
Reporters: Prick up your ears -
Thorsell, William. The Globe and Mail [Toronto, Ont] 01 Dec 2003: .13.

The 35th anniversary of CBC Radio's As It Happens is an exception, because AIH retains so much of its vigour despite the passage of time, the pestilence of fads and the pomposity of managers who come and go. Its durability tells us something about good journalism.

Journalism students often ask what the single most important quality of a good journalist is. The best answer is "curiosity," which may kill cats but supports almost every virtue that a good journalist possesses. If a journalist doesn't learn something in the course of doing his or her job, neither do you. And if you don't learn something, journalism is failing you, and you will tune it out before long.

The people on As It Happens have sustained this capacity. They do their homework on the issues, and in conducting interviews, they follow the conversation, elicit new information and learn.

Barbara Frum once said that the most important tool of a good interviewer is listening, because it is often what your subject says in answering that provokes the next and most revealing question. ...Mary Lou Finlay's curiosity remains keen six years into hosting As It Happens , and 28 years after joining CBC Toronto itself. You can hear her listening and following up on the content of interviews as she goes. You can hear her learning -- being surprised -- which offers the listener the rewards of the chase and a share in the gift of the new. But there's more.

The classic definition of journalism in most newsrooms is "what went wrong yesterday," with some attention given to "what might go wrong tomorrow." Both of these negative paradigms are relevant, AIH understands that good journalism requires application to other paradigms as well: "what went right yesterday" and "what might go right tomorrow." ...Curiosity is a defining characteristic of the young (as certainty is of the old). Journalism struggles to stay young.
reporters  journalists  ProQuest  William_Thorsell  journalism  listening  surprises  curiosity  thinking_tragically  the_single_most_important 
october 2011 by jerryking
The secret to controlled chaos -
June 20, 2011 By Tim Bradshaw . Stratospheric growth can
prove problematic... Your site may go down all the time.”... As
broadband access spreads and smartphones become mainstream in developed
markets, new technology companies are being built in months, not years,
acquiring millions of users with apparent ease...For small companies
thrust un­expectedly into the limelight, coping with such growth rates,
while maintaining the innovation and culture that brought them their
success, can be a significant challenge..Although internal culture is
important, companies must not become too inward-looking as they try to
manage growth and should be vigilant of the impact that the changes to
their business is having on customers. “The key element is to eliminate
surprises,” , “Growth is great but it must be measured. In fast times,
it’s metrics, metrics, metrics. You must measure where traffic comes
from, what the customers are doing...with that you can then focus on
serving your best customers.”
growth  start_ups  chaos  hiring  recruiting  growth_hacking  metrics  inward-looking  mojo  measurements  organizational_culture  scaling  accelerated_lifecycles  surprises  small_business  gazelles  high-growth 
june 2011 by jerryking
Crovitz: Tsunamis of Information -
MAR. 21, 2011 |WSJ| L. GORDON CROVITZ. Hayek spoke of the
'pretense of knowledge,' and why disasters are worse than expected. In
this information-saturated era, we expect no surprises. Yet we are
constantly surprised. We have huge amounts of data, so we assume that
risks can be calculated & avoided. But we also have exceedingly
complex systems. Just as weather is too hard to predict more than a few
days out because of how many variables interact, it's hard to predict
other complex systems. Consider credit instruments during the financial
crisis, the global warming debate, or global epidemics. Thus an
earthquake & tsunami, even in technologically advanced Japan, can
kill tens of thousands, wipe out entire villages, & re-open
questions about nuclear power....some physical systems turn out to be so
complex that they resemble unpredictable social sciences more than the
certainties of simpler physical science....We need to learn how to live
with both new technologies & new uncertainties.
disasters  complexity  Friedrich_Hayek  L._Gordon_Crovtiz  natural_calamities  information_overload  data  uncertainty  surprises  overconfidence  pretense_of_knowledge  earthquakes  tsunamis  social_sciences  certainty  psychology  unpredictability  compounded  risk-assessment  physical_systems  CDOs 
march 2011 by jerryking
Book review: Still Surprised - How an Expert Took the Lead
AUGUST 17, 2010 | Wall Street Journal | By ADRIAN
WOOLDRIDGE. As a guide to leadership, nothing Warren Bennis has learned
at Harvard or MIT topped the lectures he heard at Fort Benning, Ga.

What makes a great leader? What do you do when you first take over? How
do you avoid disaster?
book_reviews  leaders  leadership  memoirs  gurus  Warren_Bennis  books  veterans  surprises  first90days 
august 2010 by jerryking
The Culture of Today’s Changing World
May/June 2009 | Departures | By Joshua Cooper Ramo. From
Hezbollah in Beirut to a investment fund in Beijing, we’re living in an
age of unthinkable change and surprise. "In a world of constant newness
in science, technology, and media, there’s no reason to think politics
and economics should be immune to change any more than the way we search
for information is. If we truly want to develop a sense of the unstable
geography at this moment and master the suddenly essential language of
surprise and hope and danger, our only chance is to get out of the house
(or the bunker) and start looking for signs of the new. Travel,
tourism, and culture instantly become more than hobbies or distractions;
they are transformed into our best hope of understanding. Because while
we are now indisputably living in the age of the unthinkable, it
doesn’t mean we’re living in the age of the unexplainable."
Joshua_Cooper_Ramo  globalization  dangers  politicaleconomy  instability  unpredictability  travel  tourism  culture  surprises  constant_change  sense-making  unthinkable 
january 2010 by jerryking
The "Warning" Czar?
Oct. 17, 2009 | - Adam Smith, Esq.| by Bruce MacEwen. The US
has a "national intelligence official for warning", Kenneth Knight, who
oversees a staff of a half-dozen analysts whose job is to monitor the
rest of the intelligence community, challenging their analyses and
assumptions. The goal is to to avoid surprise. One of Knight's core
insights is the difference between what he calls the "simple
likelihood-of-the-event versus impact-of-the-event calculation." Knight
thinks you can systematize this type of analysis by being understand
and being beware of the cognitive biases of experts; by training; and by
creating an institutional check--a warning staff or Red Team. Beware
analytical frameworks--know their limitations.
Bruce_MacEwen  strategic_thinking  security_&_intelligence  systematic_approaches  contrarians  risk-management  counterintuitive  red_teams  anticipating  biases  surprises  warning_signs  devil’s_advocates  frequency_and_severity  intelligence_analysts 
october 2009 by jerryking
Recession Strategies: Companies Need to Focus on Future as Well as Present -
JUNE 22, 2009 | Wall Street Journal | Executive Briefing:

In Dr. Govindarajan’s three-box framework, Box One involves managing the present—for example, improving the efficiency of today’s businesses. Box Two involves selectively forgetting the past. And Box Three? That’s about creating the future. Often, Dr. Govindarajan maintains, companies spend too much of their time managing Box One—the present—and think that’s strategy. Instead, he argues, companies need to spend more time and energy on thinking about Box Two and Box Three.

Preparing for the Recovery
Despite the recession, companies must do more than just play defense.
When thinking about innovation, companies need to go beyond cost cutting
and spend more time thinking about what (Vijay Govindarajan) terms as
"Box Two and Box Three—selectively forgetting the past and creating the

BUSINESS INSIGHT:Can companies really plan today for the year 2025?

DR. GOVINDARAJAN: You cannot plan for the year 2025, but you can prepare for it. There’s a big difference in my mind between planning for the future and preparing for it. Preparing for the future simply involves asking what the broad trends are. If people in your organization can at least have a shared perspective on some of the big, nonlinear shifts that may happen, you can begin to think about actions that may be relevant if such shifts occur—if say, technology in your business changes in certain ways. You want to do your current plan in a way that prepares your organization for the future.

The future is full of surprises; you know that. What you want is to be able to prepare to respond and adapt and benefit from surprises. And that’s what happens when you explicitly think about 2025 in 2009.
breakthroughs  contingency_planning  cost-cutting  economic_downturn  far-sightedness  foresight  forward_looking  high-risk  innovation  large_payoffs  nonlinear  offensive_tactics  recessions  scenario-planning  strategy  surprises  Vijay_Govindarajan 
june 2009 by jerryking

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